Almost 2 months ago the thought of a baseball season looked at best, bleak, as Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association were involved in a stalemate that seemed destined to delay the start of the season. Fast forward to today and it’s hard to believe we’re talking about a full month of the season under our belt, yet here we are and what a season it has been. Per Thomas Harrigan of MLB.com, only 1 of last year’s 6 division winners are in first place thus far. Both New York and Los Angeles teams are in first place which would certainly make the brass at MLB happy if this trend continued through to the end of the season. Let’s take a stab at our first power rankings of the year, highlighting a player who has been an unsung hero for each squad.
30. Cincinnati Reds (4-22) – Player Highlight: Reliever Alexis Diaz has been one of the few bright spots for a team that may not just be one of the worst teams in baseball but may be one of the worst teams of all time. Diaz has had electric stuff this year and it will be interesting to see if he his trade bait for a team clearly in tank mode.
29. Washington Nationals (9-19) – Player Highlight: Josh Bell has come out of the gates strong this year with a .344 batting average, a .962 OPS and 19 RBIs to start the season. If Bell and Juan Soto can get some support from the Nationals pitching staff, there is room to improve this season.
28. Kansas City Royals (8-15) – Player Highlight: Starting pitcher Brad Keller has pitched much better than his 1-2 record indicates. In 31 innings of work he’s only given up 6 runs this season, however he along with the rest of the Royals staff could use much better run support. Hopefully top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. can change that.
27. Chicago Cubs (9-16) – Player Highlight: It’s been great to see former Yankees and White Sox reliver David Robertson have somewhat of a career renaissance for the Cubs, with 5 saves and a pristine 0.00 ERA to start the season. The Cubs have some talent but don’t have many difference makers unfortunately.
26. Detroit Tigers (8-16) – Player Highlight: 25 year old starter Tarik Skubal is looking like an ace in the making this year. With a 3.05 ERA and 29 strikeouts the Tigers may have found a franchise cornerstone to build around. The Tigers offense has underperformed and is too talented to perform so poorly thus far.
25. Oakland A’s (10-16) – Player Highlight: A’s ownership has let down their fans year in and year out and after another year of letting solid talent like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman leave once again, fans have turned on the franchise and are coming out in record low numbers. Starting pitcher Frankie Montas has been brilliant so far with a .927 WHIP in 6 games thus far. Look for him to be on the trading block.
24. Baltimore Orioles (10-16) – Player Highlight: Centerfielder Cedric Mullins started the season very slowly but has been picking up the pace at the plate as of late and is now tied for the team lead in home runs to go along with his great defense. Baltimore has talent but ownership’s failure to build around the little talent they have has let the franchise down.
23. Boston Red Sox (10-17) – Player Highlight: J.D. Martinez is having a season indicative of much of his career – solid and underappreciated. The 34-year-old has been picking up the slack for some of his teammates who have been underperforming, including struggling newcomer Trevor Story. For a team that finished with 92 wins last season, an improvement should be on the horizon.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (10-15) – Player Highlight: Closer David Bednar may not get many opportunities to close as evident by his 3 saves this year, however he has emerged as the most stable option in a volatile Pittsburgh bullpen. Another franchise (popular theme) that fails to invest in the franchise year in and year out.
21. Texas Rangers (10-14) – Player Highlight: First basemen Nathaniel Lowe has managed a .720 OPS this year despite hitting only one home run. His .294 batting average is not a mirage and when the power numbers follow, we’ll be looking at an all-star caliber player. The Rangers need a little more consistency to contend for a wild card spot.
20. Philadelphia Phillies (11-15) – Player Highlight: Alec Bohm is only 25 years old and despite a slow start is hitting .304 this season with a .804 OPS. Bohm is turning into one of the best young 3B in the game and the Phillies are way too talented to be ranked so low. Performing better in their division (3-8) would be a good place to start.
19. Seattle Mariners (12-15) – Player(s) Highlight: Breaking our own rule here but the Mariners have had 3 young contributors who all deserve to be mentioned. 27 year olds Ty France and J.P. Crawford have lead the Mariners offense this year and 25 year old Logan Gilbert is 4-0 to start the season. If Robbie Ray can pitch like he did last season, the Mariners are capable of making some noise this year.
18. Atlanta Braves (12-16) – Player Highlight: The defending champs are off to a slow start this season but that is due to starting pitching and not Freddie Freeman replacement Matt Olson. Olson has been as solid as he was with the Oakland A’s and leads the team with 11 doubles this season. Can the Braves find the magic they found in the second half of last year?
17. Miami Marlins (12-14) – Player Highlight: He was underrated last year and he’s been underrated this year – starter Pablo Lopez is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball with a 3-1 record, a 1.29 ERA and a WHIP of .893. Honorable mention to 2nd basemen Jazz Chisholm who is one of the best young players in all of baseball.
16. Cleveland Guardians (12-13) – Player Highlight: While some players cool off after hot starts, left fielder Steven Kwan has been a force at the plate and a solid defender. The Guardians starting pitching has been solid, they have had a great bullpen this year, and despite an inconsistent offense, they’ll be better than they were projected to be this season.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (14-13) – Player Highlight: Zac Gallen has been hyped for a number of seasons, but it looks like he’s ready to put it together for a full season. It’s only been 4 starts but in 21 innings he’s only given up 3 runs this year. The starting pitching has been phenomenal for the Diamondbacks this year, if they come back to earth and the offense doesn’t improve, watch out.
14. Chicago White Sox (12-13) – Player Highlight: The White Sox ran away with the AL Central last season so they cannot be happy with this year’s start. Reliever Kendall Graveman has been an invaluable member of the bullpen for many of the teams he’s played on, and this year is no exception. He’s able to pitch in long relief or close when needed. The White Sox are some offensive fireworks away from turning it around.
13. San Francisco Giants (14-12) – Player Highlight: While the Giants may have overachieved last year, it wasn’t completely a mirage. Newcomer Carlos Rodon has proven that last season with the White Sox was no mirage and he has stabilized the Giants rotation this season after a couple of shakeups. Do they have enough offensive firepower to compete in the NL West?
12. Colorado Rockies (15-11) – Player Highlight: 32-year-old veteran C.J. Cron isn’t one of the most well known names in the game, however his bat is doing most of the talking this year. He leads the Rockies in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIs this year. With their loaded offense, the Rockies are a starter away from pushing the Dodgers for the division.
11. Houston Astros (16-11) – Player Highlight: The Astros have a nice mix of veterans and young players and are only a game and a ½ out of first. While not the most recognizable name, veteran reliever Hector Neris has led the league in appearances this year and carries a .69 ERA to show for it. Look at the Astros to be buyers before the trade deadline this year.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (16-10) Player Highlight: Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas has had one of the most interesting MLB careers in recent memory. After 3 seasons in the majors he spent 3 seasons playing professional ball in Japan. He signed a contract with the Cards in 2018, led the majors in wins, and then the following season led the majors in losses. Fast forward to today and after missing a season and a ½ he is back on track with a 1.53 ERA in 6 games. Can the Cards catch the Brew Crew?
9. Tampa Bay Rays (17-10) Player Highlight: The Rays have managed their roster with less resources better than any other team in the majors. An example of that is 21 year old upstart Wander Franco. Franco leads the Rays in runs, hits, home runs and RBIs. Death, taxes and the Rays being in contention come October.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (16-10) Player Highlight: Starting pitcher Alex Manoah is off to a 4-0 start this year in 5 starts and looks like he is well on his way to being the ace of the staff. If Jose Berrios pitches to his potential, the Blue Jays will be in contention for the division down the stretch. Incredible young talent on the offensive side of the ball.
7. Minnesota Twins (16-11) Player Highlight: It seems like every year Byron Buxton was selected as a breakout candidate and he often fell short of expectations. This year however he has lived up to expectations for the AL Central division leaders and is fulfilling his enormous potential. He has 9 home runs and a .290 average to go along with a healthy 1.109 OPS.
6. San Diego Padres (18-10) Player Highlight: Despite not having MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr. available to start the season, the Padres are off to a hot start, thanks to the play of 32 veteran Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is off to an incredible start hitting .371 to go along with 18 RBI’s. While this performance may not last, it’s helping to bridge the gap until Tatis returns.
5. Los Angeles Angels (18-10) Player Highlight: Yes, the play of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and is to be expected, but how about RF Taylor Ward who is leading the AL in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. If the pitching holds up, is this the year the Angels can finally put it all together for a postseason run?
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (17-7) Player Highlight: The Dodgers are one of the best run franchises in all of professional sports so finding valuable contributors isn’t a difficult task. But how about 28-year-old Tony Gonsolin who in 5 starts is sporting at 1.64 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. Depth in the back of the rotation is the difference between contenders and those who fall short.
3. Milwaukee Brewers (19-8) Player Highlight: The Brewers are one of the best all around teams in the majors with very few weak spots. Eric Lauer has proven that last year’s flashes of potential weren’t a mirage and is off to another hot start this year with a 3-0 record and a 0.944 ERA. Honorable mention to SS Willy Adames who is pacing the team with 8 home runs.
2. New York Yankees (18-7) Player Highlight: Remember when Yankees fans were complaining about another year of the usual problems after a slow start? I do because I was one of them. While the offense still has some issues, the pitching has been fantastic this year, both from the starters and the bullpen. Shout out to the criminally underrated Jordan Montgomery who has a 2.88 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and unfortunately no wins to show for it. Can the offense put it all together this year?
1. New York Mets (19-9) Player Highlight: Starter Chris Bassitt has given this team exactly what they needed after losing Jacob Degrom to start the season. A 2.61 ERA and a .935 WHIP are fantastic numbers for a guy who was expected to be a 3rd starter this year. The Mets have played great against their division and if the bullpen holds up there will be no let down. Manager Buck Showalter has made an incredible difference.